False “China Girl” Attacks Escalate In Key Swing Senate Race

We’ve been talking quite a bit in recent days about a false allegation being used repeatedly against SD-19 Democratic candidate Rachel Zenzinger–a claim that Zenzinger “voted to use public funds for a trip to China as Arvada City Councillor.” This allegation was originally used against Zenzinger in her 2014 race, where it was swiftly ruled “Pants on Fire” false by fact-checkers. Not only did Zenzinger introduce a motion requiring that no public funds be used on any such trip, Zenzinger never went to China.

After another mail piece from Republican-aligned attack group Colorado Citizens for Accountable Government featuring Zenzinger wearing a Vietnamese-style hat arrived in SD-19 mailboxes last week, Zenzinger’s campaign filed a criminal complaint with Jefferson County DA Pete Weir. But then just a couple of days later, before anyone could even address that complaint, a small package began showing up in SD-19 mailboxes:


That’s right, folks. They’re mailing out fortune cookies.


A press release yesterday from Zenzinger’s campaign makes no attempt to conceal their anger–and at this point, who wouldn’t be?

Demonstrating the highest degree of disregard for the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office, a Republican group called Colorado Citizens for Accountable Government sent the packages with the false message that the cookie commemorates “Rachel Zenzinger’s vote for a taxpayer-funded trip to China.” Zenzinger has never been to China.

Just two days previously, Zenzinger had filed a complaint with the DA’s office about false mailers that implied she had taken a personal vacation to China using taxpayers’ money. In public statements following her interaction with the DA’s office, Zenzinger called upon her opponent, Sen. Laura Woods, to disavow these false ads. Woods has not responded.

“As far as we can determine, this strategy by Woods’ supporters represents a new low in Colorado political campaigning, and in fact it is not a strategy at all,” said Zenzinger. “The word strategy implies some element of creativity, and there is none here. Some desperate Republican henchman decided at some point it would be better to create this outright lie, rather than lose the election and possibly lose majority control of the Senate.”

The majority leader in the Senate is Bill Cadman, who has publicly acknowledged that he will do whatever the Koch Brothers tell him to do, with no regard for ethics or even legalities. It is a violation of Colorado Revised Statue 1-13-109 to distribute material in an election that is knowingly false, and the crime is considered a first class misdemeanor.

“I’m looking into the future, and I would say fortunes look bleak for the people who concocted this criminal ad campaign,” said Zenzinger.

Ever since it became clear that this Republican attack group was focusing almost solely on a proven-false allegation, doubling down on it after adverse fact-checks and even deceptively quoting from those fact-checks in new mailings, we’ve been trying to figure out the real motive for this almost unprecedented campaign of lies against Zenzinger. Obviously, the “China Girl” attack polls well for the GOP, but there’s more to this strategy at this point. Is it possible that Republicans are hoping the backlash over this lie will help them some way? In these low-information downballot races, everyone is looking for an edge to cut through the noise and raise awareness about the race any way they can.

After some deliberation, we do think it’s possible that this is a test–to see if the continuous application of an demonstrable falsehood in a low-information race, with all the outrage, criminal complaints, and hostile press coverage that this falsehood is ginning up, can still be a net positive for the Republican candidate.

On an objective, nonpartisan level, it’s a test everyone should hope they fail.

Rep. Tim Leonard, You’re in a World of Hurt

SUNDAY UPDATE: Via the Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning, Rep. Tim Leonard’s response to the story:


Here’s what’s important to remember: Rep. Leonard’s wife has the court-appointed authority to make education decisions for her kids, and Leonard does not. So when Leonard bemoans the fact that “the school requires two signatures on a form,” or that he only wants to opt the kid out from a test like any “good parent,” left unsaid is the fact that he is using these situations to meddle with his wife’s court-ordered authority–to the extent that he has been ruled in contempt of court.

Which invites a more basic question: how is it that Leonard has seen fit to file some 80 motions against his wife over their divorce, but Leonard can’t follow simple instructions from a judge about letting his wife make these decisions? We’d say the answer lies in what Leonard’s ex-wife describes as “controlling and manipulative behavior.”

Rep. Leonard’s response to this story did him no favors.


Rep. Tim Leonard

Rep. Tim Leonard

A story breaking today from the Colorado Independent’s Marianne Goodland spells bad news for one of the state’s most conservative lawmakers, Rep. Tim Leonard of Evergreen:

During a hearing in Jefferson County District Court on Sept. 29th, a magistrate scolded Leonard for repeatedly shrugging off the judge’s order and interfering with his ex-wife’s educational decisions.

This time, it could cost him his freedom.

Magistrate Marianne Marshall Tims found Leonard in contempt of court on two charges related to educational decision-making. She said she intends to enter a punitive sanction, which she told him could be a jail sentence of up to six months. But the hearing adjourned after 5 p.m. in the business day, after the bailiff had ended the shift.

“If it was earlier, Mr. Leonard, you need to know that a sheriff would be coming to take you into custody,” the magistrate said, according to a transcript of the hearing obtained by The Colorado Independent this week. [Pols emphasis]

The situation presents novel possibilities if Leonard were to be in jail for contempt of court on a civil matter at the start of the legislative session in January. Perhaps they’d let him vote from his cell? Of course, this presumes the situation Leonard finds himself in doesn’t cost him his seat on November 8th. And depending on what happens in the coming days, that’s something we wouldn’t take for granted.


Mike Coffman ‘Doesn’t Know’ If Trump Is a Sexual Predator. Colorado Women Do.

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

coffmansmileDenver – Karen Middleton, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, today issued the following statement about Rep. Mike Coffman’s response that he “doesn’t know” if Donald Trump is a sexual  predator during the 9News debate Thursday night:

“Mike Coffman said he doesn’t know if Donald Trump is a sexual predator. Colorado women do. Grabbing a woman’s body without her consent is the definition of sexual assault. This is not difficult.

As the Aurora Sentinel put it in their editorial today, “What Trump did was perverse and criminal. It legally constitutes sexual assault, and it’s morally repulsive.”

…He can’t have it both ways on this issue. Trump’s blatant misogyny and admitted sexual assaults are not debatable political philosophies”

The fact that Mike Coffman seems unclear on this point could explain why he voted to redefine rape. We believe a woman has a right to control to her own body. Mike Coffman’s anti-choice record demonstrates he does not.

This is just one more reason why we support Senator Morgan Carroll for Congress.  She is a pro-choice champion with NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, has a 100% rating on our 2016 Legislative Scorecard, and has been endorsed by NARAL Pro-Choice America. We know that Colorado women deserve someone who will take the time to listen to them, believe them, and take action.  Morgan Carroll will stand with the women of CD6.  She would never say “I don’t know” about sexual assault for political expedience.”

Debate Diary: Carroll v. Coffman, Round 3

DebateDiaryFor what should be our last Debate Diary of the 2016 election season, we’re taking you through what we’ve already speculated would be “The Most Pivotal Debate of 2016” in Colorado.

The third and final televised debate in CO-6 between Democratic challenger Morgan Carroll and incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Coffman took place on Thursday evening and was televised live via 9News on Channel 20 (channel 657 for Comcast subscribers). If you missed the debate in favor of Thursday night football or Game 5 of the National League Championship Series (the Chicago Cubs are now one win away from the World Series) — or for any other number of reasons — we’ve got you covered with a complete question-by-question rundown.

You may have already heard about the biggest news from Thursday’s debate: Coffman’s inexplicable answer to a question about Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s offensive remarks about women. Debate moderator Kyle Clark asked both candidates if Trump’s own comments are indicative of a sexual predator; Coffman responded by saying, “I don’t know” before desperately trying to change the subject.

*NOTE: When we do our “live” Debate Diaries, we normally list the most current update at the top of the page. But because we’re posting this entire Debate Diary at once, it makes more sense to write it out chronologically from the top-down. As always, unless it is in direct quotes, consider all statements paraphrased in the interest of time and the prevention of carpal tunnel syndrome.  



Woods apparently thinks twice about thanking Democrats

(The wrong color of astroturf? – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Woods deleted Facebook postRepublican State Sen. Laura Woods of Arvada has removed a post from her Facebook page, in which she thanked alleged “supporters from the Democrat Party.”

It appears that Woods was referring to members of a Facebook group called, “Democrats for Senator Laura Woods,” who joined with Woods at a parade last month. “It was awesome to have you there,” Woods wrote on Facebook.

As I posted last week, none of the group’s members have been shown to actually live in Woods’ district and so they cannot vote for her, with one member registered to vote as far away as Boone, North Carolina.

Another group member, pictured on the site, was registered as a Republican, until asked about his voter registration last week, at which time he registered as a Democrat, saying it was a mistake.

Woods did not return a call seeking an explanation for removing the post.

In addition to possible concerns about the group’s members who can’t vote for her, Woods may worry that promoting Democrats on her Facebook page would turn away Trump supporters, whom she says are a key part of her path to victory in her district.

Woods, who’s long supported Trump and forgives him for his lewd comments, told a Denver radio station last week:

“I think if Donald Trump wins my district, I’m likely to,” Woods said on air. “And if Hillary Clinton wins my district, my opponent is likely to win.”

Colorado Republicans Can Start to Panic Now

votebuttonLongtime Colorado political journalist Ernest Luning has been keeping track of ballot return figures via his Twitter account. This is not good for Republicans:

The last time that Democrats were this far ahead of Republicans in Colorado in early voting returns was…well, maybe never.

The biggest fear for the GOP in 2016 has always been that a terrible top of the ticket — headlined by Donald Trump and Darryl Glenn — would be so disinteresting/disgusting that otherwise reliable Republican voters just wouldn’t bother to vote at all. Right-leaning political pundits have been saying for months that Republican voters could save down-ballot candidates by splitting their ticket at the polls, but that was assuming Republican voters would actually, you know, fill in the bubbles on their ballot.

If this trend continues in Colorado through Election Day, Republican candidates are going to be wiped out across the board. Perhaps the Trump campaign would have been better off staffing their field offices with people who are old enough to drive a car. 

At Least You Didn’t Lose Your Constitution



In another edition of our regular feature, “At Least They’re Not Your Legislators,” we take you to Kyrzakhistan Kryzgystuhn Kyrgyzstan, where they seem to have misplaced their constitution. From The Independent (the international one):

Politicians in Kyrgyzstan have lost the country’s constitution.

It emerged during a debate over planned changes to the law that nobody in the central Asian country knew where the original document was.

The most recent version of the constitution was approved by referendum in June 2010, when changes were made to give more authority to parliament and diminish the power of the president.

On 19 October members of the Kyrgyz parliament queried the exact location of the original copy of the document during a debate on whether to allow another referendum to take place in December, which could result in the consistution being amended again.

For anyone here in Colorado unhappy with the “Raise the Bar” ballot measure (also known as Amendment 71), things could be a lot worse.

Mike Coffman STILL Can’t Call Trump What He Is

UPDATE: Coffman’s hometown Aurora Sentinel is as flabbergasted by these remarks as everyone else:

Congressman Mike Coffman may not know that what Donald Trump has done to women constitutes sexual assault, but we do. Women across Aurora and Colorado do. District attorneys across the country do.

During a televised debate Thursday night on 9News TV, Coffman and his Democratic challenger state Sen. Morgan Carroll were asked whether Trump’s notorious taped comments about doing what he wants to women — and the subsequent flood of women saying he grabbed them, groped them and forced unwanted kisses upon them — constituted sexual assault.

“Well, I don’t know,” Coffman said. He followed the jaw-dropping comment with a political tap dance…

…He can’t have it both ways on this issue. Trump’s blatant misogyny and admitted sexual assaults are not debatable political philosophies, no matter how loudly Trump and his supporters say they are.


We’ll have plenty more to say about last night’s debate on 9NEWS between incumbent GOP Rep. Mike Coffman and Democratic challenger Sen. Morgan Carroll later today (watch this space), but this morning most of the conversation is focused on a very short exchange over Donald Trump’s now-infamous bragging about forcibly groping, kissing, and doing even worse to women he fancies:


CLARK: …Coffman, a question first for you here. Uh, based on the claims that he’s made do you believe that Donald Trump is a sexual predator?

COFFMAN: Oh, I don’t know. [Pols emphasis] But I do know this, that, that I’ve worked, uh, very hard as a member of the Armed Services Committee on a bipartisan basis to work on, uh, preventing sexual assaults and I…

CLARK: Alright, it’s a short answer but thank you. Senator Carroll, do you believe that Donald Trump, based on his own remarks, is a sexual predator?

CARROLL: Yes. The definition of grabbing people without their consent is the definition of sexual assault and sexual harassment. It’s his words, not mine.

CLARK: Thank you.

The uproar over Donald Trump’s multitude of recorded boasts about touching and ogling women under his financial control without their consent, including but not limited to a 2005 recording in which Trump bragged about his star-powered ability to “grab them by the p—y,” is such that Coffman really needed to have a better answer for this question than “I don’t know.” An overwhelming majority of women in Coffman’s district most certainly do know, and their judgment is that Trump’s own words flag him as “the definition” of a sexual predator.

For a man whose political survival depends on putting daylight between himself and Trump at every opportunity–but not too much, lest he offend his Republican base so much that they won’t support him–this is yet another unforced error Mike Coffman can’t afford. Coffman’s answer satisfies no one, and shows again how boxed in he is between his self-destructing party and an electorate that has had enough of Donald Trump.

And this time, it happened when the voters of CD-6 have their ballots in their hands.

Friday Open Thread

“I think that America will not trust a party to defend America that isn’t willing to defend itself.”

–James Carville

Forget the rabbit hole, Coffman is opposed to a path to citizenship for immigrants

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Mike Coffman.

Rep. Mike Coffman.

9News anchor Kyle Clark did an excellent job interviewing U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman Tuesday, and his Democratic challenger Morgan Carroll Monday, pressing them on a range of issues.

On immigration, Clark asked Coffman what he’d propose for adult undocumented immigrants:

Coffman: “As long as they haven’t violated criminal laws to give them a legalized status that would allow them to work here without fear of deportation.

Clark: “Not citizenship but legal status?”

Coffman: “Legal status.”

Clark: “Any path to citizenship for those people?”

Coffman: “No. No.”

But without skipping a beat, Coffman kind of contradicted himself, with the camera rolling, saying he could possibly support a path to citizenship.

Coffman: “I don’t want to box myself in. If we get into negotiations, and there’s everything that I like, and it would be a very long path, and very selective. You know, I don’t want to totally back myself—but ideally I would say no.”

If you’re a journalist, what do you do with Coffman’s qualifier? Do you say he’s opposed to a citizenship path? Against it, unless he’s for it?

In a news segment yesterday based on the interview, Clark contrasted Coffman’s stance against a path to citizenship with Carroll’s position in favor of it. He didn’t mention Coffman’s qualifying comments.

In an email, I asked Clark why he apparently concluded that Coffman is against a path to citizenship.

Clark: “I took Representative Coffman’s answer to mean that he is not in favor of a path to citizenship but stopped short of saying he’d never support it,” wrote Clark.

Clark could have gone down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out, specifically, what Coffman means by theoretically favoring a citizenship path if negotiations produce “everything that I like.”

But it’s a rabbit hole other reporters have tried to go down without coming up with specifics on what Coffman wants for citizenship. And besides, Coffman’s statement, especially with “ideally no” tacked on, is clear enough as it is.

So Clark was right to conclude Coffman opposes a path to citizenship.


Gardner, Cruz Crisscross U.S. for Senate Majority

gardnercruzmapAs Ernest Luning reported via Twitter, former GOP Presidential candidate and current Texas Senator Ted Cruz is coming to Colorado on Wednesday to stump for Colorado Senate candidate Darryl Glenn.

Cruz endorsed Glenn prior to the June 28th Primary, which no doubt helped the El Paso County Commissioner on his way to the Republican Senate nomination in Colorado. Cruz’s latest visit to Colorado on behalf of Glenn has been about as “under the radar” as you can get in politics, in part because stumping for Glenn in any capacity is virtually pointless.

And where was Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) this week? Why, in Missouri, of course, campaigning for embattled Sen. Roy Blunt. As KBIA radio reports:

In a sign of how competitive Missouri’s U.S. Senate contest has become, the two major candidates – Republican incumbent Roy Blunt and Democrat Jason Kander – held dueling roundtables with area military veterans…

…Blunt’s roundtable featured a similar mix of veterans and was held in Overland at the VFW hall. He was joined by fellow GOP Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Cory Gardner of Colorado. Cotton is an Army veteran.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Not in Colorado)

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Not in Colorado)

If you’re scoring at home, it would be difficult to gauge the relative merits of campaign visits from Cruz or Gardner. In fact, Gardner’s presence in Missouri is a bit of an ominous sign for Blunt; earning the support of Gardner has not generally turned out well for candidates in prominent races. Gardner did endorse Cruz for President, but only after his first choice, Sen. Marco Rubio, flamed out of the race in February. After the Cruz for President campaign fizzled, Gardner eventually decided to back Donald Trump for President (Gardner has since called on Trump to drop out of the race for President).

We’re not sure what the moral of this story might be, other than to say that nobody seems to want to be seen with Darryl Glenn at the moment.


Get More Smarter on Thursday (October 20)

Get More SmarterDonald Trump now says that he will accept the election results…so long as he wins the race. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.


Got ballot? Your 2016 ballot may be sitting in your mailbox at this very moment; election officials began mailing out ballots on Monday. For voting information or to check your registration, go to JustVoteColorado.org. If you would prefer to vote at a polling place rather than via mail balloting, check here for your nearest polling location. Denver7 also includes a good list of election-related information. And one more thing: Don’t take selfies with your ballot, please.


The third and final Presidential debate took place in Las Vegas, Nevada on Wednesday night and…well…at least it’s over now. You can find a list of debate “Winners and Losers” over at “The Fix,” but there’s really only one relevant story from last night. As the Washington Post reports:

Donald Trump’s defiant assault on the election’s integrity reverberated Thursday among his allies and rivals as the GOP campaign and Hillary Clinton’s inner circle argued over how best to face the outcome after the votes are counted.

Trump on Wednesday amplified one of the most explosive charges of his candidacy: that if he loses the election, he might consider the results illegitimate because the process is “rigged.”

Questioned directly as to whether he would accept the outcome should Democratic nominee Clinton prevail Nov. 8, Trump demurred. “I’ll keep you in suspense,” the Republican nominee said. [Pols emphasis] Clinton called Trump’s answer “horrifying,” saying he was “talking down our democracy.”

The morning after Donald Trump’s unprecedented statement that he may not concede the election, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was spinning in circles:

In a separate interview on Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends,” Conway said Trump has “been reading stories about irregularities. . . . So it’s not without basis.”

In other words, Conway says Trump is being influenced by news reports that the election might be rigged…stories which are almost entirely based on Trump’s OWN bombastic claims that the election might be rigged. Trump must be fascinated to be reading about this other Trump fella who is also running for President.

Just when you think Trump has reached rock bottom, he figures out a way to dig deeper.


The most pivotal debate of the 2016 election in Colorado takes place tonight when Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) and Democratic challenger Morgan Carroll square off for the last time in a 30-minute rhetorical battle on 9News (live at 7:00 pm). Coffman has bombed in the previous two debates between the two candidates, and he’s entering tonight’s contest on the heels of a disastrous interview with Kyle Clark of 9News.

Here’s a preview of tonight’s debate from 9News.


► Democratic Senate candidate Rachel Zenzinger (SD-19, Arvada) has filed a criminal complaint regarding ads that repeatedly claim she took a taxpayer-funded trip to China (this entire attack has been disputed repeatedly over the course of the last two years). We’ve called the so-called “China Girl” attacks “The Most Knowingly False Campaign Advertisement” of 2016, and local media outlets are starting to really push back on these claims. From Denver7:

On July 5, Denver7 PolitiFact checked the facts of a mailer from “Colorado Citizens for Accountable Government” that was sent in opposition of Zenzinger.

That mailer read, “Rachel Zenzinger voted to use taxpayer money on a trip to China…”

“While serving in the city council, Rachel Zenzinger voted to use tax dollars to take a taxpayer funded junket to China,” the mailer said.

Denver7 PolitiFact rated the mailer, “Pants on Fire,” the worst rating because the statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.

As we noted earlier, the latest mail piece using this attack actually cites Denver7 PolitiFact as a source of information about the “China Girl” attacks. It’s going to be difficult for “Colorado Citizens for Accountable Government” to prove that they didn’t know these attacks were false when they cite a major news outlet’s story that SAYS IT IS FALSE.

A Denver7 story last night confirmed that the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office is indeed looking into Zenzinger’s complaint.


Get even more smarter after the jump… (more…)

The Greenpeace Blimp: No on Amendment 71

Colorado Initiative 71 Message

The Greenpeace Thermal Airship A.E. Bates takes to the skies over Colorado on October 20, 2016 urging Coloradans to Vote No Initiative 71, or Raise the Bar, which would place a cumbersome burden on citizens wishing to participate in the ballot initiative process. Raise the bar is largely funded and promoted by the oil and gas industry. Photo by Bob Pearson/Greenpeace

The Greenpeace Thermal Airship A.E. Bates takes to the skies over Colorado on October 20, 2016 urging Coloradans to Vote No on Initiative 71, or Raise the Bar, which would place a cumbersome burden on citizens wishing to participate in the ballot initiative process. Raise the bar is largely funded and promoted by the oil and gas industry. Photo by Bob Pearson/Greenpeace

A press release from Greenpeace USA–look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!

Greenpeace flew its thermal airship this morning over the Denver and Boulder area urging Coloradans to vote no on Amendment 71, or “Raise the Bar,” which benefits wealthy interests while shutting those without significant funds out of the ballot initiative process. “Raise the Bar” is largely funded and promoted by the oil and gas industry and is opposed by a broad and unlikely coalition.

The airship messages read “Vote no 71” on one side and “Don’t let BIG $$$ rig our democracy” on the other.

“Big corporations and industries hungry for more political power are trying to rig our democracy. If Amendment 71 passes, it will become much more difficult for everyday Coloradans to put forward ballot initiatives on everything from education to healthcare to protecting the natural beauty of our state,” said Diana Best, a Denver-based Senior Campaigner for Greenpeace USA’s Climate and Energy team. “The oil and gas industry and other wealthy interests, who are bankrolling Amendment 71, are hoping to take people’s voices out of our democracy, but Coloradans won’t easily be silenced.”

Amendment 71 would change the way Colorado’s ballot process has functioned for the last 100 years, requiring 2 percent approval in each of the 35 state Senate districts for an initiative to qualify for the ballot, and raising the minimum voter approval to 55 percent of votes cast. The Denver Post, which has come out in opposition to 71, estimates that it takes about $1 million for an initiative to make it on the Colorado ballot. Raise the Bar would increase that amount significantly, creating a barrier to entry that keeps most Coloradans shut out of the process.

“Colorado voters have seen how big money can drown out of the voices of the people in the political process. When that happens, the ballot initiative process is an opportunity for the people to address important issues. We should be making it easier for people to have their voices heard, not putting the constitution off limits to all but the wealthiest special interests,” said Common Cause Colorado Executive Director Elena Nunez.

Amendment 71 was written by Vital for Colorado, a front group for the oil and gas industry with ties to the billionaire Koch Brothers, Americans for Prosperity, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Noble Energy, and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

The No on Amendment 71 coalition is indeed one of the broader and more “unlikely” coalitions, with groups from left to right banding together to protect citizen participation in lawmaking via the initiative process:


If anybody gets a picture of the Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara in the Greenpeace blimp, please forward. We want that photo for posterity.